Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Archie Barwick diary, 25 April-19 June 1918
MLMSS 1493/Box 3/Item 13
Should any one find this little diary will they please forward it to the following address
Mrs. G. A. Barwick
914 Sgt A. A. Barwick
Well to start with I shall have to go back some 13 or 14 days if I remember right just before we left St. Pol on our way to Flanders again, so I shall have to be very brief & remember what I can, first of all I must mention this is "Anzac Day" & I am trying to scribble away sitting up in my bed in the Queens Hospital, Birmingham, I will have more to say of this later on when I catch my arrears up, so here goes for the back stuff, I think I mentioned in my last diary that we were held up for some unaccountable reason or other in St Pol & while here we were heavily bombed by Gothas,
& all we could do was to sit still in our trucks & heartily curse old Fritz & our drivers who seemed to have caught a fright & done a get oh yes, there was plenty of "wind" about & all were heartily glad when at last after a delay of some few hours we at last got a new engine on & pulled out for the rest of the night we travelled steadily northwards & we never seemed to be out of hearing of the guns in fact at some places old Fritz, was even sending shells over our heads, this sounded healthy but luckily we stopped nothing but it all tended to show that he had made a good advance however our spirits were of the best & to kill time a party of us played "pontoon" till just on morning & I finished up by winning just on
£ 4, a nice & handy little sum should I be lucky enough to get a crack in the next few days, we got out at a quiet little siding just outside Hazebrouck & from here we could hear a few guns belting away in the distance, after the bustle & confusion of detraining was over we "fell in" in an old paddock just close to the railway line, after the rolls had been called the Capt spoke a few words to the COY. & told them what he knew of the situation which I might say was very little for after the heavy fight everything was upside down & mixed up to an astonishing degree however he told us we would have to take up a position & dig in as soon as we came to favorable positions for defending, & at
the same time he brought up several other matters about holding on till the last, no surrender, & etc. which to my mind were quite needless for had not the Australians always fought up to their reputation, & needed no telling about it, I always think that Nelsonís famous signal just before Trafalgar was needless also, for had they not always fought their hardest & there was no need to remind them of it, at any rate after waiting about for an hour or so we put our gear on & marched away from the railway line & struck up some little country roads, here we struck some pitable sights all along the road for the poor old French people were tramping painfully along with their few treasured possessions done up in bundles which whey were carrying in their hands, some of
the more fortunate ones had their carts & these were loaded with their few little scraps of furniture, bedding, some hay for their horses & etc, & on top as a rule there were seated some old people who had been driven from their one time happy & prosperous homes & were now fleeing for their lives, following the people up came their cattle, horses, sheep & etc. & among all this mixture we were threading our way slowly up to meet the wily Hun, now there is one thing I am going to say right here & that is this, that when a lot of these old people saw we were Australians coming in, they stopped on the road & some of them even turned back such faith they have in our chaps, & more than one old lady I heard say
bravo Australia, Australia bon, & some of the old people actually cried with joy & relief when they saw the lads coming up with that firm easy swinging stride which belongs to us alone when marching in coloumns, here they thought were troops who would give Fritz a fight for it, come what may, I donít suppose you will believe me but what I say is quite true, we have a reputation second to none, & I donít think we are going to lose it either, just before we reached Borre, we were halted for breakfast & rations were issued so we sat down & had a good tuck in for all were very hungry & tired after the long & tiresome train journey right from Amens while we were breakfasting numbers of Tommies kept on trickling down all dead-
beat both in body & spirit, we stopped a lot of them & tried to get some idea of how things were going but they could tell us very little I have my doubts if a lot of them had been near the firing line at all, by the silly yarns they told, after breakfast we "fell in" & marched away up through the deserted streets of what had once been a thriving & busy little village (Borre), here we dumped our packs in a big house & threaded our way through the horses waggons limbers & etc. which were rushing up & down the road, when we got outside the village the platoons got into "Artillery formation" for we were gradually coming under long range shell fire & we wanted as few casualities as possible yet a while
continuing on across the newly sown paddocks of wheat oats beans & etc. we came to a halt just before we entered Pradeele, here we were delayed till darkness had nearly set in then we got a move on & went forward steadily till we were on the ridge over looking Strazeele railway station, here all senior N.C.O.ís were called forward to have a look at the situation where we were going to dig in later on, so over we all went & each platoon was alloted a certain task, & when they finished it they could all go back to billets Mr Beckett, Lynch Gill, & I selected our spot after much arguing as to field of fire, communication, flanks & etc, we went back to bring the rest of the platoon up, we had quite a few close shaves while reconnoitring
& arguing the toss for old Fritz was slinging his shells about in a most reckless manner, aiming at nothing in particular just chancing to luck where they fell. Well got our men up & started them digging & its only a rumour they didnít bog in, for some reason or other Fritz chose this very spot & he plastered it unmercifully for a good hour with whizz-bangs & 4.2.s. hanged if I can understand why we were all not wiped out for they landed all round us throwing the dirt up in all directions & nearly choking us with horrible fumes, in half an hour or so time the lads were quite safe for such good purpose had they dug that they put one in mind of rabbits with
only their ears showing, & we thought it time to give them a spell so we called a halt, shortly after however he knocked off shelling & for the rest of the night we dug in comparitive safety & ease, with the exception of the shelling the remainder of the night passed fairly quiet in front of us bursts of machine gun fire breaking out now & again but there was no heavy fighting, by 1 oíclock we had finished & started off back to where we were going to Camp for the time being just behind Pradeele I donít think I ever felt more tired in all my life as I did this night as I struggled home at the tail of the platoon picking up the stragglers & putting them on the right track, & heavens talk about cold it was absolutely freezing a cutting
wind was blowing which struck right to the marrow & I can tell you I was absolutely beat when we got back, the first thing I done was to slip over to the village go into one of the cottages & get a bundle of blankets rugs & etc, they were here for the taking as all the people had fled, there were dozens of chaps sleeping in every room but I managed to get as much as I wanted & slipped back to our wind swept little camping place here Charlie Tonkin & I spread the bedding out & after a drink of tea which old Mac had waiting for us turned in utterly knocked out & too weary for words, I slept like a log in spite of the howling gale & did not wake till 9 oclock & only then when Charlie shook
me by the shoulder & told me he had the breakfast waiting, but I wanted to go to sleep again but Charlie wouldnít hear of it, so I rubbed my heavy eyes & set to work on my breakfast, after this was over I felt much more satisfied so I said to Charlie I think weíll make a little shack for our selves in case of rain so we set to work & dug a hole under the hedge & made quite a comfortable little doss, we both turned in again & slept till 12 oclock, Mr Beckett came round then so we started to hunt the men up, but we could scarce find a one they had all bolted off to the surrounding farmhouses & cottages & here we found them sure enough sitting round the fires roasting & cooking all sorts of things such as fowls
big Belgian rabbits, eggs, pork & all sorts of stuff which the people had left behind in their haste, it did seem a shame to see things scattered all over the place, in lots of houses the tables were all set for dinner, food & all being on the table needless to say, the lads made the most of their opportunities & for once you would have thought they were home again, talk about wine champagne & beer well here it was in abundance, & some of the old beer wallopers had the time of their life, early as it was in the day a good few were very merry, but we got them all mustered by degrees, just close there was one specially big farmhouse & judging by the furniture & clothing left they must have been very
well off. I found half of my platoon tucked away in here, there was a rather amusing little incident in this old place, one of my "mug-gunners" Wilford (Lightweight) as we call him on account of his smallness) was pretty well inked on vin blanc & was in a fit mood for anything so when a Tommy Colonel comes in & starts to put the bounce in this was his opportunity, Lightweight immediately challenged him to a fight & started to strip off, some of his mates got hold of Lightweight & pulled him back but his blood was fairly up & they had a job to hold him, but not to be outdone he called the all the names he could lay his tongue to, & in the end the Colonel done a get & left the lads in possession of the farm, & so he
scored an easy victory, but the best part of the fun is that Lightweight couldnít knock a hen off her nest so too speak.
The big barns were full of cows tied up & horses pigs & etc had been left, we undone all these & set them free & for days after the cows were wandering about any where bellowing for I suppose they wanted to be milked, we milked quite a number for they were very quiet & tame & seemed to like having the milk taken away, but how we lived, & what tasty dishes of sucking pig we had, it was a good war just round this part & we might as well have the stuff as let the Germans get it, at any rate that was the view we took of it, I wonder what the owners
would have said if they only knew what was happening to their stock, here was to be seen the peculiar & uncommon sight of cows walking about unconcernedly among the batteries & shells falling all over the place here & there you could see a few lying about dead where they had been knocked I even saw them wandering about No mans land, I suppose a 1915 or 16 soldier would call me a liar but all the same its quite true, you never saw such a strange state of affairs in all your life, but what seemed strangest of all to me was that the cattle & etc could scarce be driven away from the danger zone they would persist in pushing forward & in this way they were gradually getting killed off, & they were valuable beasts too worth at least £ 50 or 60 apiece.
Towards the end of the day the majority of the Coy were half-drunk so some of us went round & smashed as much grog as we could lay our hands on champagne wine or beer it all went to same way, its a regular danger you know to have such a lot of stuff lying about & you never know the minute you may have to fight for your life, & half witted men are more of a hindrance then anything else, how they swore & cursed when they heard of this but it sobered them up a bit, the day was still frightfully cold & we had our work cut out trying to keep warm, however at 7 oclock we fell in & started off to complete our "outposts", we were going to lengthen & wire them so as to make them stronger
& we had a very nasty "barrage" to go through for old Fritz must have got a lot more guns up for he was giving the ridge we had to cross a taste of heavy shell fire, however we managed to get through without any casualities is a mystery to me for it seemed impossible once we had to scatter & take cover in shell holes for the shelling was severe he hit building after building & set them alight & soon the whole countryside was lit up as by a gigantic bonfire & you could see people moving everywhere, she gave every promise of a very lively night & perhaps an attack by the way he was "barraging", so I said to Mr Beckett lets get across this strip as soon as we can & take a chance for it looks as if we will be wanted tonight, I was thinking the same he said, so he gave the signal
to advance & men seemed to spring up from all manner of places & rapidly moved forward & before long we were in position, & attending to such little things as distrubiting our men evenly, passing 303. round, pushing "listening posts" out getting the best position for our Lewis Gun & team & the hundred & one little things that have to be thought of when expecting an attack, the very night seemed favorable for it was pitch black, the wind had dropped & it seemed to have a moaning sighing sound as it passed through the trees, houses & buildings were on fire everywhere, both our guns & the enemys were pounding away the shells of both sides just seemed to be sizzling over our heads & every now & again
Fritz would send up a series of green & white lights as if signalling, while at intervals there would be a short outbreak of rifle & machine gun fire & we would think now there coming but it seemed to die away each time. we got that was at last that we honestly wished something would happen & break the awful suspense which seemed to be hanging over us like a pall, these are the times when the strain on nerves are greatest, I know I always pride myself on my nerves & I must say that I felt rotten worse than I ever remember feeling under the same circumstances at any time before, but I dare not show it for I had to appear as calm as I could & I walked along the parapet every now & then & cracked jokes with the boys
for an N.C.O. is supposed to set a personal example to his men, I know myself the value of a donít care sort of way in these critical times for it helps to keep the mens thoughts off what might be going to happen, however I might as well say right here that I had a nasty feeling about me as if something was going to happen to me, & my heart seemed in my boots but by exerting my will power I crushed this feeling utterly & carried on, about 12 oclock there was an attack sure enough but it fell on the 3rd Bn. front old Fritz attacked in 7 waves & after come fierce fighting he was driven off with great loss, though not before we had to go & reinforce some of their posts which were being hard
pushed, you have no idea what a relief it was to all when this came off for the horrible suspense of waiting had come to an end, & we knew what was happening, we were engaged most of the night, but as the situation was well in hand by daybreak we were allowed to go back to our billets, we have scarce any artillery round here for when the S.O.S. went up, there was a very weak fire put over I was quite surprised, (the S.O.S. is a rocket fired from a rifle which after going to certain height bursts into different colored lights, the S.O.S. for tonight was the common one, red over green over yellow).
After getting back to our Camp we had a drink & then turned in to get what rest we could & this did not
happen to be much for he evidently found where we were & started to shell us unmercifully, as it happened I was away when it started went down to see Bill Barwick who was camped in the next village found Bill hard at work digging a strong point we had a good yarn & then I heard this shelling commence & I said to Bill thats among my COY I must get back as quickly as possible so I said good bye & off I started on my way down I met Jack Hayes who had been driven out of house & home & Jack was cursing all the Fritzs in creation heartily I said to Jack come on lets go down to see how things are they cant hit us, & for a joke I held up my arm, & said "give us one
Fritz. Jack laughed & said right oh so down we went, I was getting my men out from under the hedge & telling them to go down to the old sunken road for safety & at the same time standing close to Jack shells big ones at that were falling thick & fast & quite a number were getting knocked, next thing I remember was hearing the screech & howl of a big shell coming towards me I stood quite still & waited to see what would happen, the next thing I remember was a frightful red hot searing pass across my right side & I staggered from the blow I knew I was hit but I did not know how badly I thought at first that my stomach was hanging out when the warm blood started to run down my body, as I staggered
back Jackie Hayes caught me & throwing me over his shoulder started to carry me to a place of safety but the pain was too much so I got him to put me on the ground & he helped me across, the funniest part of all is that I never heard the explosion of the shell I suppose the shock of getting hit took that away but I remember on looking round seeing 3 or 4 more chaps who had been hit & 1 lying dead alongside me Lieut Champion was also cracked, so she had been a pretty successful shell from the German point of view, when Jack got me over to a safe place he laid me on the grass took my tunic off & cut the shirt away & disclosed the wound, it was as lucky a squeak as ever you saw.
I had got it almost in the thinnest part of my body on the right side & it had cut a great gash in my side almost showing the ribs, oh she looked a beauty, Jack took his "field dressing" & bottle of iodine out & poured nearly half the contents over the wound, talk about sting & smart made me sit up I can tell you but it was the proper thing to do, another piece just missed my arm cut straight through the sleeve of the tunic, so I ought to consider myself rather lucky, this happened on the 15th, just 1 year & a week after I was hit last year at Doignes, the crack did not trouble me in the slightest once I saw it was bad enough to get me to Blighty, when the lads heard I was hit they came crowding round all anxious to know how bad it was
& etc, they were all of the same opinion as myself & that was I was a lucky dog to get out of it for a while just then Jack spots a limber coming down the road so he runs up & stops it, & then brings me up & puts me on top, a little further down we picked up McKillop he was cracked in the leg by the same shell & thus we were carted down to the Dressing Station here we were carried in & had our wounds dressed again & also got one of my horrors an injection by the needle for tetanus, heavens how I hate these things for they drive them into your flesh a good 4" & it stings like Hell. after this the Dr. laid me down on a stretcher & in a few minutes the Major came bustling in he had heard that I had been hit &
he wanted to find out how badly heís not a bad sort is old Mac & has been a good friend to me, after him came the Capt. & a lot of my cobbas so I had no lack of callers, I was sorry I had to leave my little diary behind but Jack Hayes promised to look after it & a bundle of letters I had left lying in the tent, Joe Ruebens promised to get anything of any value out of my pack & look after for me, we did not have long to wait for soon a car came along & picked us up, do you know I had a presentiment I was going to be hit but I did not know how badly, & I done a thing which I had never done before just before we went into action I gave Jack a couple of addresses which he was to write to should the worst happen to me, Jack
laughed & called me a fool & said it was only a fancy but he took them, & promised to do as I wished should I go under, Jacks a fine chap & a great cobber of mine, theres no doubt we have some splendid chaps in our little circle & they would stick by one another till the last, mates in every sense of the word, as we drove away in the car I felt sorry in one way to be leaving them but all the same I was very glad to be leaving France & the horrors of the battlefield for a while & I could see a vision of old England in the distance, & a nice spell which would do me the world of good after an hour or so in the car we pulled up at the 15th Clearing Station, here we were examined
pretty thoroughly & our cases diagioned, here I was marked "Severely" & placed in a tent along with a lot more to await the arrival of the Red Cross train which was due at 10. I lost consciousness here for a while & came round just before we were being placed in the train at a little station called Erquinham, they put me in a good bed in the train & a nurse came round & took my temperature eased my bandages & in general made things much more comfortable after this I was able to drink a little tea & eat a small slice of bread & butter, but sleep I could not for the pain was too bad so I just had to lay there & bear it as best I could, & it made me bite my lip pretty hard at times but I stuck it out, we pulled in at
Etaps just about 3 oclock in the morning & after a little while we were unloaded into motors driven by women & taken to the Hospital I was sent to No 24. as soon as they had taken all our particulars
were we were carried in to the wards placed on the beds & there undressed & washed, when this was over they brought some food round for we had had scarce anything to eat, how lovely the clean white sheets felt it seemed like a touch of heaven to be in them & free of the cursed lice & dirty clothes, I was feeling very restless & uneasy for I could only lay on my back & this at any time is a hateful position for me I could not turn without the aid of a nurse for I was as
helpless as a kid by now I almost felt ashamed of myself, by this time it was getting well into the morning so the nurse took my bandages off & waited for the Doctor to come round & see what was going to be done with me, at last down he comes & has a look at each patient, the old Dr. said I had as close & narrow a shave for my life as he had seen for some time & he asked me quite a number of questions as is usual in these sort of things, & marked me for the X Ray the following morning, then the nurse dressed my side after this it was much easier for a while but I could get no sleep, & the rest of the day passed slowly away & the night came on how it dragged & not a wink of sleep could I get the nurse gave me all sorts of stuff
but it was of no use, how glad I was when morning came & the orderlies came round to wash us, by this time the whole of my side was swollen dreadfully & I could scarce stand any one to touch it, after nurse had dressed it again I was sent out on a stretcher to go under the X Rays, they strip you for this & lay you on a cold table the room is then darkened & the X Ray a great bluish looking bulb all radiating with light is swung over your body all spitting & fizzing millions of little sparks, there is no feeling while this on you, all of a sudden the operator switches her off for he has discovered the piece of metal, the lights are then turned on & he marks the place on your body with a pen or a piece of pencil
& then sketches the size of it on your card & away you go, after this little piece of work I was washed & given us dinner & carted away to the operating theatre, I donít remember a great deal of what happened in here only remember the Dr & nurses in their white aprons & rubber gloves, of a formidable array of glasses, knives & etc, I can remember hearing the nurse say smell this, then a great & tremendous banging which gradually sounded fainter & fainter till it died away in the distance then when I came to I was in my bed again & a nurse was bending over me, but what a headache I had everything was spinning round & round & I lapsed again into unconsciousness & I believe I swore a little when coming round so the nurse told me at any
& I see no reason to disbelieve her but when my headache cleared I felt very much better for they had got a good piece of metal out which had been pressing on my lung the Dr said there was still another piece left in but he said it could stop till I got to England as it was just on the chest wall & not dangerous, I wished he had got both pieces out at the time & made a job of it but I suppose he had his reasons for not doing this, I may have been too weak & my temperature too high to keep me long under the chloform or whatever it may have been, there were some awful wounds in this ward one Tommy actually had a nose cap taken from out of his back I never saw such a thing in my life.
during the night 2 chaps died in the ward, & to make me sleep they gave me a dose of morphia, this had the needed effect for soon I was in the land of dreams & when morning came I felt quite refreshed, & a lot of pain had gone, I was the only Australian in this Ward, & I must say the sisters treated me real well bit of a difference to when I was in Rouen last year, & the food was plentiful & good but how these nurses had to work for the wounded were coming in so fast, they were working practically night & day I felt sorry for them.
That day one of the Sisters told me I would be going to Blighty during the night this cheered me up a bit but the pain had started to come on again & it got worse &
worse as the night wore on but I cracked hardy for I knew they would not let me go if they knew of this & I wanted to get across as soon as I could, about 3 oclock the Stretchers came in for us & when they carried us out it was snowing heavily & I thought of the lads up in the trenches, by a strange co-incidence I had the very same bed in the car & the same car & driver as what brought me from the train to the hospital to take me back to the train as I was going away on. We had a very slow & painful to Calais the train just crawled along stopping every few minutes for something or other & the jar when she started off each time used to make us swear at
times for it used to give the wounds a nasty jar & twinge, at last we reached Calais after spending 6 hours in the train, & we pulled up alongside the quay & very shortly we were being unloaded on to stretchers carried by German prisoners & carried down to the Hospital ship, I had a good bed & was very thankful for the rest it gave me, just before we started we had dinner served a plate of good stew & nothing else an hour or so afterwards we pulled out & luckily the trip across the channel was smooth & before very long we were in Dover & being unloaded again, we were carried off on stretchers to the railway station & put into different trains I was put into the one leaving for Birmingham, I was
it was not London for I have very little time for this city & never put much time in there, how pleased we all were to be back in England once more it done oneís eyes good to see English things again & to know at any rate we were on the right side of the Channel, as I was being carried to the train I saw Len Pettitt sitting on a seat waiting to be sent somewhere, he was hit the same time as I was, but he was what they call a "walking case" while I was a "stretcher case". we had to wait here a good while so as we could fill up & the nurses took the opportunity of dressing us again, I can tell you I was beginning to feel pretty crook with the handling from train to boat & etc, & I was getting
very restless & fed up, & try as I would I could not get to sleep, just before we left Dover they gave us some bread & butter & tea, how funny this war bread seemed after the white bread which we get in France for you know the army in France get the very best of everything, civilians of course are rationed & I must say I like the French war bread better than the English, it was dusk when we pushed off & the train rattled along at a merry pace & we arrived in Birmingham at about 2 oclock in the morning, here we were met by more motors & driven to the Hospital, I was sent to The Queens Hospital on the outskirts of the city, in peace times it is a Public Hospital & the nurses & Drs are still here, it is much better
than being in a Military Hospital for there is not the same strict discipline & red tape as abounds in the former, the nurses are practically all young girls & are very nice & kind it does ones heart good to see them after being away so long, oh what a relief it was to be finished travelling & to put into a lovely bed & washed again then the Dr & nurse came round examined the wounds & dressed them, then food was brought round & after this we tried to get a little sleep but no such luck for me for my side seemed to be on fire & I had great difficulty in turning even with the aid of the handle & chain with which my bed was fitted that morning the Dr had another screw at my side & told the
Sister that I was to have plenty of fomentations & at the same time to keep a good watch on me for my temperature at this time was well over a hundred, I put a miserable day in & a worse night, about 2 oclock the night sister brought the Dr in to see what they could do for me to make me sleep at last much against the Drs wish the sister prevailed on him to let her give me a small dose of morphia this had the desired effect & for the rest of the night I slept fairly well & woke up in the morning feeling much better, a couple of days after this the nurse was dressing my wound when she spotted something black so she got hold of the pincers & pulled it out, it turned out to be the piece of shell which had been
left in by the Dr at Etaps by Jove it stung when it was coming out but what a relief the side started to go down straight away & the pain left as if by magic, the nurse took the little piece away & washed it & then
then put it in a little cardboard box & wrote my name on it, I think I will send the piece home for a souvenir
The second day we were here it snowed like one thing nearly 2 ft deep it laid for the next couple of days but after this the weather cleared up & it is now beautiful but we are not allowed out of the Ward as yet today I got up for the first time & I am now toddling about with the aid of a walking stick, I shant be long getting convalescent now for
my wound is healing rapidly
There are 12 Australians in this Hospital & they are all in our Ward, 3 of them are from the 1st Battalion Beggs from No 12 platoon is in the next bed to me we have visitors every afternoon but none unfortunately to see the "Aussies" we seem like lost sheep so far away from our homes, but we never let on how forgotten we seem to be, though it seems very hard at times, but we content ourselves by looking forward to the end of the war & we will be getting home to our sunny land again.
We have some lovely flowers in our Ward daffodils Irises, crocuses, hyacinths & lots of other pretty flowers which the visitors bring in with them & they make the room look ever so much nicer & prettier.
I wrote a few letters but all so far very short, will get to work on them later on when I get out of the hospital, I put most of my time in reading itís a long long time since I done so much reading before.
A busy street runs right alongside this Hospital & from our windows you can watch the traffic passing up & down the roads, this a very big & important city & I am anxious to get out & have a look at her.
28th. It is Sunday & very quiet, went outside in the sun the first time for a fortnight & found it very nice, as I was hobbling along the corridor a lady pulled me up & started talking about one thing & another & finally ended up by giving me an invitation to come out to her place when ever I could for tea & have a look
round her garden & house, she also gave me a bag of cakes & fruit for tea so I did not do so bad, after this I went up on the balcony & there I stopped for a long while watching the never ending traffic, & my thoughts kept flying back thousands of miles away to other towns I know & love & I wondered if I should ever see them any more, I wonder?
29th. Have been out again this afternoon strolling in the sun & yarning to all & sundry otherwise it has been a very quiet & uneventful day, there are some very fine nurses here & it is quite a pleasure to speak with them, though I am afraid they have very funny ideas of us & Australiaí heavens only knows what their ideas where previous to the war breaking out.
Have been doing a little writing this evening, just a few lines to some of the lads in France, I hear tonight that old Fritz has started another great attack, when will it all end & how I wonder, but we must fight on till heís beaten, its simply marvellous how the people over here are taking it they all seem quite contented to put up with all hardships & carry on till the jobs completed, even the very nurses are rationed here, so you can guess what the food situation is like, Australia donít know there is a war on compared to over here.
30th.Very quiet day nothing doing, except having a yarn with some old stagers who are in the other wing of the Hospital that is where the general public are admitted
for half of this Hospital only is given over to soldiers.
Last night we had a concert in our Ward some concert believe me I have seen better oneís in our platoon billets many a time, it was that rotten that I was real pleased when the show as over.
Had a bit of a lark with the sister this evening when she was taking our temperatures while her back was turned I dipped the thermometer in a basin of hot water which was on my locker this had the effect of driving the temperature up to an alarming height, she got quite scared when she looked at the figures but I could not help myself from laughing & so gave the whole show away.
This morning I received a bunch
of letters from Horsferry Rd. they had stopped them from going to France & sent them here instead.
1st May. Got a bit of shock last night, I was sitting on my bed yarning when the Head Sister came across to me & said do you know a Mrs Oliver, Sgt." well you could have knocked me down with a feather for I knew I had never mentioned her name & besides I have never even seen her yet though I have heard a lot about her from Len & also from home, I coloured up & said Yes Sister but what do you know about Mrs Oliver, she laughed & said I have just received a letter from her asking me to get your permission to come to see me, for she says she is a friend of your Mother, oh thatís the trouble is it.
Sister why certainly she can come if she wishes I said, cant be a bad sort I should think after that. This morning I got a letter from Len telling me he will be up most likely tomorrow morning.
Went down & got our clothing today a motor took us down & back, we did not get a very good rig out but it will do us, then after dinner a party of us went out & had a look round the city, she is a fair size next to London I should think, her streets a very narrow & twisting & the trams are nearly all old double-deckers, being a Wednesday most of her shops were shut only the high class ones being open, & into one of these I went to buy a few little things for my tunic such as chevrons stripes badges & etc
before they would give me the red chevron (1914 one) I had to produce my pay book & then sign my name rank & unit in a big book, this is done the girl told me on account of so many wearing them who are not entitled to such things, I got everything I wanted with the exception of colours & they say theyíre doubtful if I can get them in Birmingham theyíre so very scarce.
They have a big fish market here in the Market Hall its an eye opener a walk through the stalls, & there is also the finest Arcades that I have seen anywhere as yet they are bonza & seem to lead everywhere & take up the centre of the city.
I noticed a fair number of Yanks knocking about, they seem to be practically everywhere, & all they
appear to be doing is, guessing spitting, chewing & calculating but I suppose their turn will come one of these fine days.
This morning being May Day a day of great importance over here, all those who could get out of bed were taken up on to the roof of our hospital by the elevator, & we had quite a crowd what with soldiers nurses & civilians it was a combined service held by a parson & a priest, & if ever I had an inclination to knock a manís head off well I had it this morning I never saw in my life such a cringing crawling wowseristic, Pecksniffian scoundrel as this priest looked I would not trust him with even a dog I valued, his very actions & looks fair made my blood boil, oh what a miserable figure
he cut alongside the parson, donít think I am predjuiced nothing of the sort, the parson he preached the sermon & anyone could see that he was a man, the other mongrel done the praying, I know this much if he ever comes into our Ward & comes yapping with his religion to me I shall tell him off there & then & I mean it, I never took such a dislike to a man in my life when the service was over one of the nurses came to me & said well Sgt how did you like the sermon I told her it was alright but the priest being there spoilt things I then told her what I thought of this saintly friend of mine & hanged if she did not have exactly the same opinion as I did, & I think everyone thinks the
same, I only wish I could describe the bald headed, shifty eyed, weak-kneed, chinless, yellow fanged, & heavens only knows what else of a man, what a character he would have been for Charles Dickens to picture & describe.
After tea tonight 4 of us went up with the elevator & pinched the piano, & so this evening we are having a little music & singing by some of the lads & nurses, & very good some of them are.
2nd. Have been expecting Len all day but he never turned up must have been stopped somehow for he said he would be here this morning in his letter of yesterday.
Have been getting tons of mail since coming over here & plenty of parcels I get parcels of flowers now & then from different people including Mrs Duke & Miss Sparkes.
Got a letter from Jacky Hayes this morning with some rotten news telling me that my old cobber & pal Jock Mackie had been badly wounded & had died before they could get him to hospital poor old Jock is buried somewhere round Hazebrouck & the soil that covers him is surely richer than ever it was before, for Jock was above all a soldier in every sense of the word & as true a chap as ever breathed it will be a long long time before Jocks old face & figure fade out of my mind, thatís 2 of my best cobbers killed now Reg Duke & Jock & still I am left I often wonder why the bonza chaps are taken & such affairs as I left dosnít seem right, but I suppose a higher power than we poor mortals
knows best & decreed it so, I wrote to Jack Hayes & asked him to get me the address of Jocks fiancee for I promised him it would let her know if such a thing as this happened & I lost her address when I was wounded I am sorry to say, she will cut up rough Iíll bet for they thought the world of one another.
Somehow or other I canít reconcile myself to the fact that Iíll never see Jock or hear his hearty voice again but alas its only too true however he died as he lived with his face to the enemy & true as gold, the Coy. will be very much poorer for losing Jock his sort are few & far between worse luck, Jack also told me the names of a good few more who had made the supreme sacrifice they were killed during a heavy
attack the Germans made on the Australians 3 days after I was cracked, our lads put up a great stunt & fought Heine to a standstill & beat him badly.
Another stab with the needle today & tonight my left arm is paining dreadfully & swollen almost to bursting point, & we have to have another one yet in a few days time to complete the course.
Hopped on a car after tea this evening & went for a ride down town & a bit of a walk through the streets bought a few cigars so tonight I am enjoying a smoke.
Put a little piece tonight in the Head Sisters Autograph book & also several of the nurses.
3rd. Am getting on finely had quite a long run down the town
this afternoon & I quite enjoyed myself, I have got all my stripes & etc up & I look like a zebra.
Got a splendid parcel this afternoon from Mr Duke strawberries apples & oranges, the strawberries must have cost a pretty penny for they are a distinct rarity over here at this time of year so the nurses say, heís a bonza old chap is Mr Duke & itís a real pleasure to know him, something like a friend.
This afternoon I tried a good dozen shops trying to get some chocolates you wouldnít believe how scarce & dear they are, you get about a dozen for a shilling, from what I can understand the shops are rationed & only allowed a certain amount each week, there seems to be plenty of food though in Birmingham judging
by the windows
Thereís one thing that beats me over here & that is the large number of strong young able bodied men running about belonging to the Flying Corp, they could use the comb with great & good effect here if we are so short of men as they say we are, for most of the work they are doing could easily be done by older men
We are having another concert in our Ward this evening, a bit better than the last one too
4th Got a telegram from Len this morning saying he would be up tomorrow afternoon (Sunday).
Have been out dodging round the city this afternoon & it is quite hot after the heavy fall of rain last night, it fair came down in torrents & washed everything clean.
Put the morning in writing I am getting my correspondence caught up rapidly now & Iím not sorry.
Nearly all the lads went out this afternoon to a tea fight given by some old society pot or other, who would condescend with a loft air to give the poor soldiers some tea & cakes not for me these shows I canít stand them at any price, & I think I am worse now than ever I was in this respect, for I know only too well what the average swell think of a common soldier, especially the way they treat their own Tommies, I have seen quite enough of it to make me sick, if I go to any of these shows it is an equal not as an inferior, for I know I should only insult them & make a row, so I stop away, & I might
mention that I am not the only one who holds these peculiar ideas. hardly any of the "Aussies" here will go to these turnouts, they would far rather stop in the hospital than accept their much boomed charity for they practically all do it for the sake of publicity & the talk it causes, there are of course a few kind hearted people but they are few & far between.
5th. Had a bit of fun yesterday afternoon while we were sitting out on the lawn in the sun, a bunch of girls came out on the windows just close to us & started talking, by & by the chaff got fairly lively & I by way of a joke wrote a note & threw it over the wall to one of the girls, of course this started them laughing like one thing, just then the old matron spots us & over she comes I could
see we were in for it so I beckoned to the girls to keep quiet, when she got up close to us she said in acid freezing tones for all of these old matrons are dead narks, "I canít have you men talking to people out of the hospital", I was sitting on the seat smoking a cigar & all the lads looked to me for a cue, so I rose & knocking the ash off my cigar in an unconcerned manner as I could rake up, & said "excuse me Matron but we were only thanking these people for the papers & books they have just given us" & I pointed to some that were lying on the forms along side us, she was evidently taken back & lost for an answer, at last she said they have no right giving you these things & I donít want you to have anything more to do with
them," Very well Matron I said but we canít stop them from giving us things when they wish to, & one canít be rude to them, "I understand she said but please donít encourage them, with that she turned away, & when she was gone the girls sent down their answer to my note.
Len came up this afternoon he is looking well brought me up some clothes & a few little odds & ends, we went for a stroll in the afternoon round the city till about 7 for we all have to be back in Hospital by that time, we had some tea in the town & a good yarn & then walked back.
6th. My little love affair is developing fast, we were out on the green again
yesterday this afternoon when the girls came to the window
& called out she was going to send me down some cigarettes, I signalled all clear to her & she came over to the brick wall which divides us & let a big silken scarf down, I was too cunning to go & get it myself for perhaps the old nark was watching our little by play so I sent a boy who is in the civilian hospital & comes on to the green with us for it, on undoing the scarf I found it contained some packets of cigarettes & a note, I took the note out & scribbled a few lines on the back & got old Beggs to throw it over later on which he did, so I am expecting to hear something tomorrow, all going well
Len & I were out again this afternoon & met a girl or two not bad sorts I think Len was
going to take his girl to the theatre he is going back to Camp tomorrow
Received a splendid parcel this morning from Mrs Oliver, will keep us going for a week in luxuries nearly, I donít know what the nurses here think I am or must be for I have been getting bags of letters & papers & telegrams, & about 20 parcels, & all good stuff at that.
7th. It has been a miserable day a light misty rain having started early this morning & continued throughout the day.
8th. Quite a change this morning for the sun is shining brightly & things look very nice.
We have some great fun in the wards here with the nurses over Australian customs habits & etc.
& we ring in some pretty tall yarns
All the Irish patients are being transferred to Iceland today wouldnít mind if I were going.
Was out snapshotting this afternoon down Hagley Road way, & standing on the corner at the terminus I saw a small party of W.A.A.C.ís standing so for a lark I went across & said to them, have you any objection to my taking a snap of your little party. of course they giggled & said they would only be too pleased & etc. so I took them 8 in all, after this we started talking and it appears they were going out for a picnic & they had all their cakes & things with them in a couple of boxes, & they invited my mate & I to join them, after a bit of word sparring we consented and away we went up in to the woods
where we were joined by 6 more men, & we had a jolly fine time picknicing out on the open hillside on the green grass & in the sun, the worst of it is though that we have to come in too early & the girls had to do the same, they were not bad sorts & bought everything themselves & we spent rather a pleasant afternoon
I amused some of them very much by writing out their characters & they all agreed that I read their remarkably close, I have got the wind up the nurses here properly, I have written all their characters out for them by request, & seem to hit them very well, for they are all running to me now wanting their character told, I have made this a bit a study through handling so many men in the Army & I have an idea
that I can read a person fairly well Nurse Bayliss declares that what I told her is exactly what an old gypsy said some years ago about her, & they all consider I have got uncannily close.
9th. Have got a bit of spare time on my hands this morning so I will try & give a description of how a man when wounded is conveyed from the battlefield to Blighty when lucky.
The first man we come in contact with is the Battn or Coy. Stretcher bearer, who paints the wound with iodine & dresses it with a shell dressing if it is a large wound, or with the mans own Field Dressing if a small one, the man is then helped or carried to the Reg. Aid Post, here the man is again dressed by the M.O. & a morphia injection is given in exceptional cases when a mark is made on the patientís forehead
with indelible pencil, hot tea perhaps with a dash of rum, & cigarettes are given to him here, & at all the stopping places, from here the A.M.C. bearers carry him to the advanced dressing Stn. where he comes under the care of the Field Ambulance Drs. then he is taken by motor Ambulance to the C.C.S. the C.C.S. as it is called is practically a portable hospital with wards & operating rooms, the only noticeable difference is that there are usually no sheets on the bed as at the base, slight cases are usually kept here until cured, but others are sent down to the base, the red edged label on which the Battln. Medical Officer has written a rough diagnosis is first removed & replaced by a brown envelope, or Diary of transference on which all transfers & numbers of hospital
trains & ships are recorded, this contains a Field Medical Card on which diagnoses notes & injections are recorded, all wounded receive an anti tetanus injection to guard against lockjaw.
Next comes the trip in the hospital train to the base, practically hospitals on wheels with wards Dr. Sisters, orderlies, cooks, these trains are very comfortable although they suffer from the usual faults of French trains slow speed & frequent halts
The chief interest for the wounded man in the base hospital lies in his chances for Blighty, though slightly wounded are kept there for recovery, everyone no matter how slight his wound, sweats on & hopes for Blighty, raising his hopes with the Army legends of men who have got across with boils on a festered finger, at last the Blighty Dr. comes & examines everyone, leaving
a happy face at every bed which he has marked H.S.D. or H.S.B. (hospital ship deck, or hospital ship bed.)
10th. Had a most enjoyable afternoon with my cobber, she is a Sgt Major in the W.A.A.C.s & has charge of 60 odd girls they are all clerks & are of a much better class than the usual W.A.A.C. we run across, Miss Reading the one I am going with is a fine girl well educated, of good family, & handsome, & jolly as you like, & we do have some fine times, in fact I am having the time of my life & I shall be sorry when I have to leave Birmingham we spent all yesterday afternoon down in the Park it is lovely down there shady trees scattered all over the place & the grass is
lovely & green, lots of people come out here from the city, there is a fine restaurant & garden here also, & a walk though the grounds is something to be remembered.
Had another bonza afternoon, met our girls again at the 5 Ways, & then walked down to the Botanical Gardens, they are very small but nicely laid out, after strolling round a while we selected a nice grassy little patch & sat down for the rest of the afternoon & done a bit of spooning, practicising of course for the time the right girl comes along, I have been very bashful & shy in the past you know so I am rapidly making up leeway, I only wish I had started before for I can see what a good time I have missed, never mind
better late than never" they say.
We took a good few snaps some of them should be quite interesting though I would not like Aunties to see them, but it would be a good thing as doubt for they would probably realize then how different I am to the Archie they knew in Tasmania long long ago, for I think they still have an idea that I have changed very little. I think I done the smartest piece of work this afternoon as I have done for some time it happened this way, just as we met the girls 2 old ladies dogs started fighting like mad on the footpath they were going for one another like as if their very lives depended on it & the old ladies were in great distress & a crowd started to collect as
they always do when anything unusual occurs, my mate made a hit at them with his stick but this only enraged them the more, then his nibs like a hero stepped up & poking the crooked end of my stick between them I gave a good jerk & by a wonderful streak of luck caught one of the dogs (& they were a fair size) under the neck & threw him a good dozen yards away from his rival & so stopped the bloodthirsty combat
You should have heard the people "Good boy Aussy", just what you would expect an Australian to do, one old lady said, kind remarks were showered upon my luckless head by the dozen & I coloured up terribly, especially when the old ladies wanted to kiss me because I saved their dogs from killing one another, I was quite the hero of the dog
fight, & I lost no time in making my escape followed by the kindly glances & remarks of the crowd, I shall never forget this little incidence as long as ever I live, for it could not have been done in a more cool & unconcerned manner than if I had been doing it all my life, & Iím sure it raised the prestige of us Aussies a100% in the onlookers opinion, though little did they guess that it was the biggest fluke I ever pulled off in my life.
11th. Got a letter from Len this morning with startling news to the effect that he was about to become engaged to Miss Winter a girl I have heard him speak of frequently, in one way I was not a great deal surprised for I knew he thought a lot of her though he never let on but I can read him fairly well, however I only hope it
turns out well for Len has the makings of a good man, & besides we have been together a long time now, & I would not care to see him fall in, his intended I have never seen though I must pay her a visit when next I go to London I can just imagine their home when they get word of this, wonít Aunties raise their eyes, & wonder whats going to happen next, I know theres only one thing that keeps one from selecting a girl from over here, & that I shanít mention
I am not surprised at the Aussies marrying over here, look how long they have kept us away from our own people why we will be complete strangers if ever we return, & no doubt these English girls are lovely & charming, I know I have my work cut out from succumbing to the undoubted loveliness & charms, but whether I can hold
out much longer is doubtful, for at times I feel very lonely & you know I am getting on in years.
Have been out boating on the reservoir all the afternoon with the girls, she is a fine stretch of water nearly a mile long & Ĺ wide & fringed with trees on 3 sides, at the top end there is a big skating rink which seems to be well patronized, they have nice little boats here seated for 2, you would not have thought there was much the matter with me, had you seen my driving my little skiff through the water, had some fun later on teaching the girl to row but she got on famously & would soon learn to feather her oars like an old boatman we had my camera out & got a few shots on & off the water I donít know what I should do if it
wasnít for my little Kodak, for she is my constant companion, at any rate I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, & it will be a pleasant day to look back upon in the years to come, my ribbon seems to arouse a good deal of curiosity over here for they are so very rare, & no doubt it is a pretty ribbon, I am being constantly asked what it is.
One thing I must say in this city that the people
in this city have a lot of time for wounded soldiers, if you ever happen to get into a crowded tramcar, people will at once rise & offer you their seats ladies young & old vie with one another to be first & even the men a most unusual thing will offer their seats, on the other hand if you happen to be seated & a lady gets in the crowded car, you offer her your seat & she will refuce to take it she will make you sit down
these little things donít seem much in the ordinary state of affairs but they go a long way towards forming a favorable opinion of the people.
Was very 12th Was very restless last night could not sleep at all, but I do not mind this for the night nurse & I are great pals & she comes & sits on my bed & yarns for an hour at a stretch when the ward is all asleep & quiet, she is jolly nice Miss Smith is her name, I can see I am beginning to get on better with girls now, I could never understand them before, they sort of had me bluffed this little nurse brings me in a cup of hot tea each night, so you can see I am not doing too bad in this country but theres no doubt they treat the "Aussies" well & they are very popular with all, the old felt hat seems to be irrestible as ever.
It was very close & hot yesterday afternoon &
close & about 7 oclock it started to rain lightly, this had the effect of clearing the atmosphere, so this morning it is nice & fresh though a little cloudy
13th. Sunday & we met the girls for the last time for a week at least for they wonít be able to get out worse luck on account of their being so busy, we had a bonza time went boating again & then from the reservoir down to the Botanical Gardens where we put the rest of the afternoon in among the lovely flowers
By heavens but I made some fun & laughter in our Ward this evening it happened this way, McGuire from our Battn met a girl for a few minutes last night, & hanged if she did not write him a very sweet note & sent it in to the
Ward. Mac brought it round to me & asked me to write her a reply, so I set myself out to write her a letter that would make her lift her eyebrows, you never saw such a letter the terms of endearment I used & etc, I practically exhausted my stock of adjectives, & when I finished it I called some of the nurses over & read it out to them they nearly died laughing & it was passed round for all to read, they reckoned it was a masterpiece & would cause a sensation if printed in the papers, when Macs breach of promise" comes off, the whole Ward was in an uproar, & the Sister had a job to stop the laughing & chuckling long after lights out. Some of the lads nearly burst their sides so tickled were they.
I have got quite a reputation here what with writing love letters & telling their characters, things are running merrily, Nurse Smith would have hers told yesterday so it fixed her up & she reckoned it was splendid, you wouldnít believe how serious they are over these things, I have also been in great demand for autographs I have something in all their books now, one especially I should consider myself lucky to have been asked to write in & that is Nurse Smiths, her book & it is only a small one dates back to 1907, & she told me that she allows only those whom she considers as her personal friends to scribble in it, so I suppose thats good enough for me, shes a very nice girl & I think quite a lot of her
Oh these English girls, what peace disturbers they are & bad for the heart the nurses we have at present are all leaving us tonight they are changing over with the civilian wards & they donít like it either, neither do we, for we are all used to one another & are more like one big family.
Oh we had some fun this afternoon 4 of us went down to the rink another chap & I had never learnt to skate before, so you can imagine what busters we got & the fun we caused, I managed to bring 2 girls & about 4 chaps down once, what a lovely mix up, but in spite of everything I got on fairly well & will master it in a couple more days if I can maintain the same rate of progress, after I had been skating for about an hour I got
very hot & took my coat off, & carried on I was getting on fine when one of the men in charge of the floor came across & told me I had to put my coat on it appears it is against the rules to take your coat off & I knew nothing about it however it made no difference I shoved it on & continued skating, there are plenty of girls down here & we had a fine time with them
Iíll bet their arms are stiff this morning with dragging me round & holding me off the floor where I used to have violent struggles trying not to sit on its greasy surface, a fellow feels as helpless as a kid once heís pushed out on to the floor & he gets carried wherever his skates care to run, that is except when he isnít throwing his legs in the air like a bucking horse & coming down with a thud & a silly grin on his face.
14th Got some of our prints last night & they are dead funny talk about laugh, some of the boys nearly split their sides.
A big packet of letters also turned up 15 & a parcel, letters were nearly all dated February & Dec. they have been delayed a long while somewhere.
Have been skating nearly all the afternoon again, got on much better but I done a foolish thing as usual it happened this way, I was sitting on a form at the side of the rink having a breather when I saw a girl coming towards me & just about falling, of course I gallantly flew to her rescue forgetting that I had skates on & was only a beginner just as I reached her we both fell with me of course underneath in a flash there were half a dozen
up on top of one another all piled up beautifully & I looked as silly as a sheep as we sorted ourselves out but I went & took the girl away & we had a good laugh over a cup of tea. its great fun skating & if possible I intend to master it thoroughly before leaving Birmingham.
You should have seen the letter I wrote to some of Lens Liverpool friends, if they donít split their sides laughing Iíll eat my hat I wrote it in a tone of a regular wowser & goody goody, just the opposite to what they wrote to me, made out I was disgusted with such awful things as dancing tangoing, oh a regular kill joy.
15th. Went to the theatre this afternoon to see "Tainted Goods" a moral play it was a very sad & fearful thing & should teach anyone a lesson, I know it sank into me, I could scarce
control my feelings at times, it was all about a young girl marrying a man who had veneral disease & the terrible results for all parties that followed, it was very very sad but so true, in one way I thoroughly enjoyed the piece for it was well played. the place was simply packed as is usual for these plays with women & girls & I donít believe they ever trouble themselves about the moral it points out, only come to hear a bit of plain speaking, I have not too good an idea of a large number of these English girls, they are very flighty
After this was over another chap & I went for a long tram ride through some very pretty suburbs & residences after getting off the tram we started to walk up the street home, & run into McFarlane with a girl, we just nodded & walked on but Mac called me back
& introduced me to the girl it appears she does nothing else but go round & visit the Australians in hospital sheís an American girl & a real bonza, just after the style of our own girls in Australia
Another concert was given in our Ward last night by 6 little girls they were not bad.
16th. Have been skating again this afternoon got on real well had only 1 buster the whole time, & while there this afternoon I bought a pair of splendid skates a chap sold them to me for 12/- they are
Wilcoxs "Winslows" make and a pair of beauties they are too fast at present if anything for me they run like greased lightning seems funny donít it being in hospital & yet able to go skating like fun, the old chap who looks after the skates at the rink knows me alright, calls me the mad Sgt.
because I go at it for a learner with such pace & rashness, but I am getting on splendid & soon will be a right as rain.
I had to get the Dr to have a look at my arms this morning great big lumps came out on them in a few hours & they were very sore, the Dr ordered them to be well rubbed with some ointment, they seem a good deal easier tonight.
There is great fun in our Ward every evening for as sure as you go out some of the nurses are bound to short sheet your bed, & there is the devil to play.
It has been a glorious day quite hot & I thoroughly enjoyed my evening stroll round the city, I think half the girls in Birmingham know us now for we get the glad eye all along the streets.
17th. I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons of my life today, with
one a young lady who works with heart & soul for Australians, I was introduced to her the other day & we sort of took a fancy to one another with the result that I was invited down to her home, so this afternoon I went, she met me at the tram terminus & as the day looked very stormy for thunder was about she insisted on taking me home, they live in a most lovely house, the afternoon passed like lightning we had music singing & etc for Grace thats her name is an accomplished girl, afternoon tea about 4 oclock & then as the sun was starting to shine a little we went for a stroll in the garden & I took a couple of snaps of her with my Kodak she is a very fine & good looking girl,
Shes is an American belongs to New York her father having come over at the outbreak of war & went into the Kings Royal Rifles, he was a Major & was killed last year, so the girl is leaving with her relations, & all she does is work for our boys, she writes verses & sells them for funds to buy our lads presents not a bad sort is she she gave me her book & I am going to copy some of them into my diary for I like them, I had tea with them before going home, it seemed just as if I was in Tassy once more & so homely I poured the tea out like I used to long ago, after tea we went for a stroll through the park & then Grace came as far as the Hospital with me, before leaving they made me promise to come out & see them whenever I could, you can bet I
took very little persuading, for I had spent a most delightful afternoon, & one that I shall never forget
Her is one little piece entitled "Memories"
Ė Memories Ė
When evening shadows fall dear,
& the day draws to an end
I sit, my heart still longing,
For that distant dear old friend
For the dear old happy days dear
Will creep out from the past
And memories of those dear old times
Will every for me last
I see the dear old homestead,
And the church upon the hill
Where bells so sweetly chimed at eve
I seem to hear them still
I can see the glowing poppies,
that green amongst the corn
In the fields the cows are grazing
with the sheep all newly shorn,
I see the dear old school house
Where we spent some happy days
As bathed in golden glory
From the suns last glowing rays
Those days I cant forget dear
Oh could they with me only stay
What things I would as different
As I go through each long day.
They are the happiest days
of memories golden store
And could I but go back again
I would not ask for more
But still the years go by my friend
And seasons come & go,
Many lives are made & marred
In this world of weal & woe
But the sunshine & the shadows,
they both walk hand in hand
Until our cares & sorrows
Pass unto a better land
But the memories of the past
And of a loving
From recollection neíer will fade
They are cherished to the end.
"My Countree, Australia"
Oh homeland the fairest
And best land to me,
What would I only give to be
Once more again with thee
Away across the oceanís boundless
White tipped rolling foam
To the land of lands
Australia my beloved home
I seem to see in fancey
The dear old home that I love
in the trees the birds are singing
As the sun shines bright above
On the beach the surf is breaking
And the wavelets dance with glee
Oh how I fain would be today
"Australia" with thee
The cattle I see grazing
In the fields of verdant green
Across the plain my dear old home
The fairest to be seen
My dear sweet faced old mother,
And the dear grey haired old dad,
Are waiting in Australia
To welcome home their lad.
My countree how I miss thee
When Iím in strange lands alone
My heart will ever be with thee
My countree & my home
My eyes they oft are dim with tears
My heart is full of pain
For Australia & the homefolk
I neíer might see again.
But they will not forget me
though we are far apart,
And memories so dear to me
Are ever in my heart
And with our Gods good grace
Some day across the foaming main
Iíll come to thee "Australia"
And neeír leave thee again.
18th. Was out this afternoon with a nice little girl, we went to the "Scala" for she wanted to see the "Honor System" screened it was very good & we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, after this we went in to a first class restaurant & had afternoon tea, & then I took her home.
In the morning I was out on a hunting expedition looking for something suitable for a wedding
present for our Sister is going to get married very shortly, & seeing as how she has treated us so well, I proposed among ourselves "(the Aussies) that we should get a little collection & make her a present from us, they all fell in with the idea readily so I got the money 30/- off the 9 of us & then had to decide what to buy I eventually hit on a pair of silver salt cellars & spoons in a nice little leather case, I thought they would be suitable, the boys all reckon they are fine, the Tommies in this Ward did not like it because we were buying on our own, but we always stick together whenever possible, & we all thought it better to give her something from us alone & hang the Tommies, personally I have very little time for the majority of them.
We had a bonza concert here last night all girls from 6 to 21 & they were very fine I enjoyed myself. You should see the cigarettes & stuff these concert people distrubite quite surprising at times.
Went to the dentist this morning to see about my teeth, he reckons I want 3 fillings & a small bridge very nice Iím sure especially the fillings
19th. Anniversary of the great Turkish attack & this time 3 years we were shooting Turks like rabbits
A chap from the 8th Bn. named Haddon & I went to the Catherdal this morning (Sunday), all the little blue coat boys & girls were here & very clean & smart they looked this is a charitable instution & does a lot of good over in this part of the world, I enjoyed the service though
it was a trifle too much high Church for my liking, we had a bit of a yarn with 2 old ladies who pulled me up just as we were going in the door, she wanted to know what my ribbon was, they were both good sorts.
All the Ward had their photo taken yesterday the Sister arranged for it, after the photographer had finished I walked out & takes 2 with my Kodak of the same group heavens knows how they will turn out for it was the first "exposure" I have taken for a long while with my Kodak.
20th. Today is a general holiday over here Whit Monday, & the people are flocking to the Parks in thousands I was down round Hagley Park this afternoon & it was simply
swarming with people all sitting about on the grass & under the shady trees for it was a glorious sunny day & real hot, the people were all out in their summer dresses & the whole ground was simply a blaze of color with what seemed to be countless thousands of happy little kids running about & enjoying themselves I never seen so many children together before, all Birmingham must have been out taking the air, I know I had a good turn with the little Yankee girl we went down to a bonza little Park, private one with beautiful little lakes fountains rose walk & etc, just the place for a camera & I got quite a number of shots which should prove very interesting.
21st Out again this afternoon with my U.S.A. girl, we got a taxi at New
Street railway station & went out to Cannon Hill Park, it was something glorious & there were thousands of people there, the gardens are very pretty & the 1st Life Guards Band was playing, Grace & I selected a quiet little spot & we were enjoying ourselves when I spotted McGuire & a girl coming along the promenade, so I promptly dashed down & brought him up to Grace where some introductions took place, so the 4 of us had a bonza time in the shade of the lovely trees listening to the band & watching the people go past, at 6 oclock we all went into the city & into a flash restaurant for some tea. some of the big heads screwed us off, but I am careless of them now for I flatter myself that I
can hand a lady about now as good as the majority, & with as unconcerned an air as you like just as if I had been doing it all my life, thats one thing that knocking about the world has done for me, & it is a splendid thing, opens the eyes of a lot of the English people, for it shows them that all Australians are not so uncouth & ignorant as a lot of them appear to think, after this we went for a stroll round the "Bull ring" & through the Market Hall where I snapped Mac & the two girls on the steps, in a few secís quite a crowd had collected as they always do when a camera is flashed, after this we walked home, & just as we were near the hospital a girl Mac had been going with ran fair into him, I nearly died laughing
& as we walked past the hospital the whole crowd of the boys & nurses craned their heads to see us, & what a hooray we got when we marched in after putting our girls on the tram & started them off for home, they are both bonza girls & oneís you can take anywhere & as jolly as you like.
22nd. Went down to the Rink skating this afternoon till 4 oclock & nearly got into a nice argument over those skates I bought from a chap there a week or so ago, it appears from what the rink men say that he sold their skates,
that what they say & they showed me their brand on them, of course an argument started & soon got pretty hot, they wanted to take them off me but he had no chance
I would have hit him over the head with them first & the rest of the Aussies would have put a stunt up with me for we always stand by one-another & some of them were spoiling for a fight you could see that plainly however nothing came of it & we got away with them in spite of their loud protests, but it wonít do to take them down again until I see the gentleman that sold them to me.
After this we all came home & got washed & cleaned up for it was a very hot & close afternoon, & the spread was coming off, they had big tables down the ward loaded with all sorts of things, but I got a proper shock when they sat down for not a single nurse nor Dr. sat with the soldiers they had separate tables I never saw a line drawn so
fine in my life before & it fair disgusted me & all the Colonials, I had the greatest difficulty in preventing myself from getting up from the table & walking out, only for the Sister having treated us so well & the fact of me having to give the presentation I would have done. the Tommies seemed to take very little notice & they enjoyed themselves to their hearts content but it was not so with the Canadians & our boys, they one & all had a very disagreeable look on their faces, & I might say the dinner was a failure, when I had to make the presentation I made it in as few words as possible & got it over for I felt in no mood to be throwing boquets about, after this conversation became general & the old Matron came along to where
I was sitting she could see something was the matter Iím sure, for she asked me how I enjoyed myself & what I thought of the turnout, I thought to myself here goes neck or nothing so I said "well look here Matron Iíll give you my candid opinion if you will promise that you wonít be angry over what I am going to say." Oh no she said go ahead I like plain speaking so I thought this will do me, & I then told her what I thought of the snobbishness shown this afternoon & how all Colonials detested such things, look around I told her & see their faces, do any of them look
ed pleased, this knocked the wind right out of her sails, at any rate she agreed with me to a certain extent & she thought it would have been much better if they had all mixed up together regardless of social positions
however in the end we had quite a long yarn & parted best of friends, after this 2 other chaps & I went for a stroll down town to get away from them for a while & get cooled down a bit.
23rd. Rained heavily last night & it is still going strong it will do the world of good for it has been a terribly hot the last few days, a rotten heat so moist. We are all expecting to go Convalescent any day now for the majority of the boys are pretty right & feeling fit.
23rd. Out again this afternoon in spite of the rain which was falling fast but it cleared up nicely by 3 oclock when I met Grace & to put the afternoon in we went to the Pictures in New St. they were very good after this to a restaurant & then I took her home.
Went & had a look at my films
which I was getting developed at "Bayntons", they reckoned they were the best lot of negatives that they have handled for a long time, they could hardly believe that an amateur had taken them, the old chap said he only wished that everyone was as careful as I had been, I felt quite flattered at this compliment, but theres no doubt about it they are bonzaís & splendid negatives, I am getting a good lot printed.
A convoy came in yesterday nearly all gas cases, we have 9 in our Ward, one or two fairly bad.
Its wonderful how the Australians hang together, they scarcely ever mix with the Tommies, my bed is the rallying point for our chaps & you ought to hear the nurses going crook at times, they way the cigarette asheís matches & etc are scattered about
you would think a smoke concert was being held there, on & round my bed all sorts of things are discussed
24th. Well I faced the fearful ordeal this morning of sitting in the dentists chair & letting him bore my teeth with the drill, I had been dreading this all the week, but when it was finished I was surprised that I had got off so light, I quite expected to lose half my head, I had 3 drilled, & he stopped one, I have go to back on Wednesday to get them completed. After this was over Blows & I went down to the Daimler tea rooms & picked ourselves up with a cup of coffee after our trying morning from here we went to the Pictures on arriving home, the nurse came to me & said Sgt. some one has
been ringing you up on the phone & they want you to go to Snow Hill telephone by 2.30, now this sounded fishy to me for I thought that either McGuire or the nurses were getting a joke up on me, for there has been a lot of this flying about of late & I jumped to the conclusion that they were trying to get even with me. So I laughed & said yes Iíll go nurse bet your life, of course I never went near the place went skating instead & we had a glorious afternoon made the pace that hot that the 6 of us nearly got warned off the rink for reckless skating, we were joining hands & racing round at a tremendous pace, put the wind up a lot of them to see the mad Australians trying to break their neck or someone elses
We came home at 5 oclock had tea & then we went for a walk round the town, we were coming home down Corporation Street when 2 ladies passed us & then turned round & addressing me said, excuse me but are you from the Queenís, I pricked up my ears at this, but the next question was a startler, she said you donít by any chance happen to be Sgt. Barwick I looked at her for you could have knocked me down with a feather I was thunderstruck for I had never seen the girl in my life before, then I suddenly remembered the telephone call, & everything was plain to me, I asked her was she the young lady who rang me up on the phone & she said yes, so then I had to apologise & tell her how sorry I was, & how I had thought
it all a joke, she laughed & then introduced herself, it appears that Sgt. Tomlinson who knows me had written across & asked her to call & see me but she did not like forcing herself on my acquaintance so she had tried the telephone dodge, but what a fluke picking me out like that wasnít it, sheís a jolly nice girl & I walked down to the Hospital with her, she lives in Hereford & is going back tomorrow morning Manning is her name she is a clerk in the Railway Office & goes home for her week endís, I reckon this was one of the biggest flukes I have been mixed up in for Birmingham is a pretty big place to pick out an unknown person, but how she come to do it she said was because there are so very few Australians in Birmingham & fewer still Sgts so there
was just a chance that I might be the right one, & as it happened she was right.
Sent my skates & some more clothes down to Littlehampton this afternoon. its no use carting these things when one goes Convalescent.
Thank Heavens I think I have finished my medicine of all the rotten stinking stuff as ever I have tasted this took the bun, worse even than castor oil & heavens only knows thats bad enough I am being pestered again by the new staff of nurses to write their characters for them, evidently the others have been yapping about theirs, but Iíll string this lot on for a while yet they will appreciate it all the more when I do write them (if ever I do)
Weather has cleared again & today was nice & fine though but very little
sun was to be seen.
25th. This afternoon two other chaps & I having an invitation from Mr Jervis who offered to take us round the Park & back home to his place for tea, slipped down to Hagley Road terminus where we were to meet, to tell the truth I did not like the idea of going at first & I wanted to back out, but he seemed so keen on my coming that eventually I went, & Iíll say right here that I was never so glad that I went as I was today, they met us sharp for he had brought his daughter a jolly fine girl, & it was no time before she & I tailed off & were yarning like as if we knew one another for years we both had a topic in common namely photography
& we discussed this at great length Iím afraid we took very little notice of the scenery, I know I did not for I felt so happy with her she was such a frank open girl & it was a real pleasure to be in her company, on arrival at their house a fine & pretty place we were introduced to his wife & sister & then taken upstairs to have a wash & clean up, after this tea in a lovely room & the table all laid with silver & etc it seemed like home again, for they made us feel so much at ease I sat next to the girl & her father after tea was over we discussed various topics mostly concerned with Australia Haddon told them of cattle mustering Doherty of wild horses & station life in
general & I of the White Australia policy & what it meant to us, then we went out on to the lawn, but the girl drew me to one side & she took me into the front room & showed me some of her enlargements which were really fine, then out to join the others who were beginning to wonder where we had got to she brought her Kodak out & I had mine so we both took some snaps I hope the oneís I took of her will turn out alright, I have my doubts for the day was very cloudy & overcast not suitable for snapshotting at 6.30 we had to leave & I can honestly look back on this day as one of the happiest I have ever spent, just before we parted I got the girls permission to write to her & Mr Jervis gave me his card.
I can see if I am in England much longer Iíll come a gutser, for I am now meeting so many nice girls & a man is only natural he must get trapped by one of them for instance the girl this afternoon quite took my fancy & I am fool enough to think that the attraction was mutual, at any rate she was a splendid type of girl & one that anyone could be proud of she is an only child, somehow or other I canít get her out of my mind she has stirred me as no other girl has ever done, she is not pretty far from it, but there is an undefinable something about her which seems to attract me like a magnet I suppose I am a fool to be thinking like this of her for I doubt if ever I shall see her again, but there
you are, it will be interesting just to see how I get on, for strikes me I shall be a long time forgetting her & Iím sure I shall be wondering if she ever thinks of me, but what a fool I am getting worse every day I think & me at this age its time I knew my own mind, but things seem in a whirl tonight, so please make allowances for me dear reader if you were only in my position you would perhaps understand me better & have a little patience with my foolishness, for such it appears to me, but I will close now for morning might find me in a different mood & I daresay I shall be sorry for what I have already written but somehow I feel like the Scotchman for "I hae me doots"
26th. Sunday, so this afternoon Rilen & I went out to Cannon Hill Park to see the Medals given out by some old General or other, we went out by tram & on arrival made straight for the big green where all the Volunteer troops were drawn up, I never saw so many policemen in my life before they were nearly all "Specials", there seemed to be thousands keeping the crowd from surging forward, Snow & I walked round the crowd looking for a place where I could get a snap of the proceedings, we had got almost to the top of the ground when a policeman called us over, now I thought here is a stink for heís after my camera, but no to my great surprise he opened up a gap in the crowd took us through all the Specials & troops & showed us some seats where we made for
quick & lively, & whats more we were right among the heads, nothing but big wigs & senior officers, I got the shock of my life, we were in a splendid position for we were no more than 20 yards from where they were giving the medals out, I sat between a Canadian officer & some fat old lady with lorgnettes, I sat still for a while till the sun came out then I took my fortune in my hands & walked boldly out to within 10 ft of the Heads who were pinning the medals on, took my camera out of the case & took 4 snaps as cool as you please, I wonder what ever the people must have thought of me in fact I quite expected to get hauled off by the scruff of the neck but they seemed to be highly amused for I heard more than one sing out "Good boy Aussie", no flies on you, & etc
at any rate I got what I was after & then came back to my seat, then the fun started for in front of us was a lady with a small boy & girl, so I enticed them to come to me & I then put them both on my knee, & dangled them about much to their amusement by & by all the little kids in the chairs started to collect round me & they started calling me Daddy, this sort of thing got pretty embarrassing for me so I handed one of the little offenderís over to the Canadian officer on my right & Snow took another one, then the General started to make a speech but we could hear nothing nor the people around us for the kids were in high glee on our knees, & were kicking up a fine row but the people took it all in good part & smiled at the soldiers nursing the kids
after all this was over Snow & I had a stroll round the grounds we were looking for 2 pretty girls we were not going to take on anything, so after about an hour or so I spots 2 who I thought would do, so I engaged them in conversation & after a little persuading Snow & I walked off with our beauties I took their photos (they were sisters) later on, sitting on a seat hope they come out alright, but I have my doubts for it was very dull however we spent a very pleasant afternoon with them & then took them to their home for tea, they were two nice sensible girls, after this Snow & I caught a tram & beat it for the hospital
27th. Have had 2 signal honors of a mild sort conferred on me this morning nothing more than being asked to put an autograph in
Sister MŲller & Cottons book, they are both very old books & they say they only let a privileged few write in them, I am the only "Aussie" who has ever entered his name for I looked through them just to see, so Iím sure I ought to feel honored, I had quite a long yarn with Sister Cotton last night, she is a fine woman.
My character writing is also on the boom again, for I am being flooded out by the nurses & sisters who want theirs Sister Cotton reckons that what she has seen of my opinions is simply wonderful, for she says she knows all the nurses well, she reckons it wonderful how I have hit them off
Took Doherty down with me to a friends place
yest this afternoon he is a good chap & we had a good time.
28th. Had a very funny dream this morning about Grandma wonder if anything has happened to her.
This afternoon Farrell & I went up town & got my prints from "Bayntons" they are very good, we then paid my usual call at my flash little cafť, for our cup of tea, I am well known in here now, & welcomed.
During the afternoon 3 funny little incidents occurred, first was my discovery of a "Barwick Street", next got into a tram with a Belgian Colonel who was wearing the same ribbon as mine only he had his medal also, as is usual with them, then in the same tram a little further on a girl got in who I had been looking for since the first few days I had been in this city.
Farrell & I spent a couple of hours boating on the reservoir it was lovely & no mistake.
There was a big row in our Ward this morning, through the lot of
crawlers & muldoons who are hanging round the Kitchen serving out the tucker & etc, they are all Tommies & a lovely crowd, never seen such boys in my life, they were trying to do us "Aussies" out of sugar in our tea so as they could have all the more for themselves, but they came at the wrong sort, we all told them off & old Beggs in particular shook them up a treat, so now we are all looking out for a hot time.
29th. Rilen & I went out to the dentist again this morning & what a time I had of it, bored into my head jerked one nerve out & put some chemical in to kill the other one as he said it was too tender, never no more for me after this lot is finished the sweat came out in great drops all over my face the pain was that
crook, some stunt believe me.
As we were coming home we bumps into old Beggs with his Kit bag, I wondered what on earth he was up to, it appears that he & Rilen came in 20 minís late last night & the Sister who must have been nursing a grievance grabbed them & this morning had old Beggs set off under escort to the 1st Southern General, this is the result of yesterdays row you can bet your life & its a dirty way of getting your own back, Rilen who is guilty of the same offence is to be confined to the Hospital for a week his pass having been stopped, & heís not going crook about it either. poor old "Aussies", & to think that we have come this far to be treated like this, makes my blood boil to think of it Iíll bet they have got it in for all of us now, however they can send me out
just as soon as they like now I shanít worry in the slightest.
This afternoon Farrell & I went out to Cannon Hill Park, I wanted to get a few shots with my camera round there which I did, after this we kept our eyes open for a couple of good looking girls to spend the rest of the afternoon, & as usual it was me who selected our beauties a pair of sisters & fine looking girls too we spent a real pleasant afternoon with them & arranged to meet them the following day.
30th. Rilen & I were marked out of hospital this morning as we expected, the Sister has got her knife into us properly, at any rate it will do us to get out, we have had a good spin & canít growl
In the afternoon I went out as arranged to meet the girls, we spent an enjoyable afternoon round about the Park for she is a real nice girl & so sensible her father is an Accountant in the city & they seem fairly well to do, the girl has not long come from her "finishing School" & is real interesting to talk too I took her into Birmingham for tea & sent her home with flowers & chocolates its wonderful what a chap can mix with over here if you only go the right way about things, her mother trusts her with me, so sheís as right as rain the old camera accompanies me on all my expeditions so she will be able to tell some tales in the years to come.
They have been expecting a General to come & visit the Hospital, but he phoned down this morning that he would not be able to come for some reason
& needless to say no one felt sorry for who wants to see these old useless old "brass hats" why they are only a "parasite on Society", for they use up a lot & give nothing in return.
The weather here now is simply glorious brilliant sunshine from early morning till late at night, but the worst of it all is that we have to come in at 7 oclock & at that time the sun is still shining nicely & itís the best time of the day, makes everyone so discontented but they wont lengthen the "passeís"
31st. Rilen & I were marked out of hospital
this yesterday morning they are sending us to "Harborne Hall" a place with a good name round here, its better than Dartford or Harefield at any rate & all the lads reckon we are dead lucky.
Blows & I met the girls again this afternoon we went away out to Alcester Lanes End right out in the country & it was simply glorious, all the fields yellow & white with buttercups & daisies & a brilliant sun shining, we went boating on the Worcester canal for a while & then a ramble round the lovely hawthorn & May hedges, the country now is a blaze of color with lovely Rhodendrons of all hues, I am beginning to feel splendid again & have quite forgotten the horrors of war nor do I ever wish to see France again though I know this to be impossible for I shall have to go back some day, after I recover sufficiently.
There is a great scarcity here in films for Kodaks they are very scarce & shops will only sell them to you as a favor.
Shall have to send to Mr Duke for some more money in a day or so, theres one thing it takes a good deal of money to keep me going what with the girls cameraís & etc, but it is well spent for Iím having the time of my life.
1st June. This morning Rilen & I went to our new home, a bonza motor car called for us & we rode down in style to Harborne Hall Auxiliary Hospital on arrival we were ushered into a beautiful old oaken hall & there our names & particulars were taken & a nurse (V.A.D) showed us to our room which is by a strange coincidence in No 9. Ward. This is the 3rd time I have been in this number in succession first at Etaples then at the Queens & now here this is a most lovely old place & the gardens & lawns around it
are almost too lovely to describe for it is the prettiest I have every seen in my life, such a wealth of flowers, glorious dahlias, roseís chrysantheums, pansies & etc abound everywhere while the Rhodendenrons in all their glory of colors are a never to be forgotten sight, such a variety of colors, pink, mauve, blue scarlet cream gold there they are in a bewildering mass of beauty coloring the whole ground, & sending forth a perfume & incense that defies my poor humble pen to describe, I could wander for hours & hours in this magnificent garden, for there is everything to please the eye & sooth the nerves, it is a little bit of heaven, scattered all over the place are lovely big shady trees & birds are singing everywhere
& every here & there there are bonny little nooks with armchairs in them for anyone to lounge in should they feel so inclined.
There are all sorts of amusementís tennis, cricket billiards & etc. so you can see it is some place, we are allowed out on "pass" from 10 till 12, & then again in the afternoon from 2 till 7, Rilen & I were out this afternoon & as we were walking down Corporation St. we met Mr Jervis & he would have us come out to his place tomorrow, this will do me so I accepted for both of us, after this I had to meet my girl at 3.30 at Hill St. tram terminus she could not get away sooner for she had been busy "flag selling". we then went to our favourite Cafe (Andres) & there I took the waitresses photo
who always looks after us, from here we caught a tram & went for a ride to the Botanical Gardens, & so ended a most enjoyable afternoon.
2nd. From where I am writing this entry I have a most magnificent view of the surrounding country I am sitting at a big open window 3 storeys up & my book is resting on the ledge like a table, I have not long finished breakfast & have bathed, shaved dressed up & etc. it is about, or to be exact by my watch 7.58, & the sun is shining brilliantly the birds are singing gaily & the Sparrows over my head are kicking up a deuce of a noise feeding their hungry youngsters while spread out before me like a map lies the garden & fields in all their glory, a thin haze of smoke hangs like a misty curtain over all, but
the rays of the sun are fast dispelling this haze & soon the whole countryside will be bathed in a flood of golden sunshine, England is now at her best & theres no doubt but it is lovely, or so it appeals to me it is Sunday & over all this birdsong the Church bells can be heard pealing mellowing the whole scene into one of loveliness & beauty, I could sit here for hours drinking in the beauty of it all, & wondering if ever I shall possess such a beautiful place, for it has always been my ambition to do so.
We had a concert here last night an open air one we all laid or sat about on the grass & thoroughly enjoyed the music if nothing else.
In these Wards there are 8 beds & all splendidly fitted up, the only difference here compared to the
Queens is that we have to go down to our meals which we have in big marquees, & they are much better meals also have to make our own beds & clean the little room out, this is done in 15 minís so you can see there is not a great deal to do, the only drawback in my opinion is that we all have to wear suits of blue, Kahki is not allowed to be worn, we have a pair of blue pants & blue tunic, white shirt, & red tie, & of course as much underclothing as you may require while we wear our own Australian boots & hat, we donít mind so long as we have got our hats they are every thing to an "Aussie" for no matter what he is dressed in his hat will always proclaim his nationality & I dont think that you can find anyone more
patriotic & proud of his land than we are, for an Australian now-a-days means something let me tell you for they are building up a great reputation.
Rilen & I went out to Mr Jervis home this afternoon & we spent a really enjoyable time, in fact we were all talking so interestedly that it was with a start we noticed it was 6.35 & we had a long way to go so there was a rapid farewell & we beat it accompanied by Mr Jervis as far as Portland Rd. here we caught a tram hopped off at 3 Ways & then caught a bus going Harborne way, we just got home in time, slipped upstairs had a wash & then down for some tea in the marquee.
Rilen has been teaching me to play billiards today I want to learn
for it is so interesting.
Before going to Mr Jervis this afternoon Rilen & I went along to the 1st Southern General to see if we could find Beggs but had no luck, the Ward he gave us knew nothing about him although the enquiry office showed him to be there so I donít know what to make of things.
3rd. Here I am again at the window feeling as fresh as a daisy, it is just a little after 6. & I have just finished a cold water bath shave & etc. so now I am writing & enjoying the fresh morning air & scene at the same time & it is just about perfect, the other chaps are not out of bed yet with the exception of Rilen whom I have just dragged out much against his will to go & have his bath & he donít like cold water at all
I prefer it to hot now especially in the Summer time for you feel so fresh & fit, while hot water on the other hand makes you so sleepy tired & lazy.
This morning the Dr. examined us all in a big room, where all the patients collected, I have to have my side dressed daily & he also marked me for route marches as if I donít do enough of that already I am noted among the boys for the pace & distances I walk for I love it over here among such beautiful scenes & its the only way I can make myself sleep get real tired out, they took Rilenís board & papers away from him so I suppose he will be going any time I wish he could stop here a little longer for he is a good fellow.
Was out this afternoon again with my girl Miss Allan, Biddy I call her she is a case but a real respectable girl of good parents she wants me to go down to tea with her badly but I am fighting shy, but I suppose I will come at it one of these fine evenings, we were up boating on the Worcesters Canal for a few hours then had afternoon tea & home.
4th. Was out this morning for one hour for exercise but you might guess how much we done, went down to a little cafe instead & had a cup of coffee & some home made tart.
At 10 oclock Rilen & I went into town & on the bus I managed to lose a roll of films I was sorry for they were rather important ones, we got back again at 12.
& then after dinner we went to the rink for some skating & had quite a good time from the rink we went & had a wash & then tea in town & finally landed home 15 minutes late through having to wait so long for buses I suppose there will be a row over it in the morning there was a concert here tonight but the majority of them get on my nerves so I lit a cigar & strolled round the lovely gardens till it was all over, I enjoy this far more than the average singing.
5th. Snow & I ducked out Ĺ an hour earlier today & without a pass at that, we took a risk, I went out to meet the girls & we went sculling again at "New Pool" a very pretty little spot & had a jolly fine time, took a
few more snaps & etc, after this she insisted upon me going home with her for tea which I finally did & had a good time there for they are nice people, I was supposed to be in by 7 but I never left her home till 7.15 how the people all stared for I was the only one in blue to be seen & they knew I was a long way over my pass, I did not get in till 8.20 & I donít think anyone spotted me.
6th. Rilen went away this morning to go on leave so I am on my own now, he was not a bad sort & we got on well together.
My remittance from Mr Duke £10 came also I asked for £7 but he thought he would be on the safe side I suppose & sent more along heís a fine sort sure enough.
Done a bit of writing this morning & I strolled down to Harborne to post them, on my way back a young boy scout runs up & asks me if I could give him a snap of the troop I took down in "Worley Woods nearly a month ago he recognised me alright. I also managed to lose a 10/- note somehow the first I every remember losing through carelessness on my part.
After supper I was strolling in the Gardens smoking a cigar when a Sister who was sitting in a little cosy nook sewing called me over, & we yarned about one thing & another for an hour & a half sheís real nice & talks broad Scotch she told me a few things about old Asquith & his family, it appears that when the first lot of German
officers arrived in England at the start of the war all the big heads rushed down with their cars to drive them to "Donnington Hall" the Compound, & all the poor Tommies who were their escorts had to walk & also old Mrs Asquith & her daughter used to go down & play tennis with them & their daughter was actually engaged to one of the mongrels, this was at the time too that the old hound was Prime Minister, I can just imagine now how handicapped Kitchener & his Staff must have been with this pro German crowd pulling the strings, no wonder we canít get on with the war but Llyod George is getting rid of them fast Billing is giving all hands a rare showing up, with the help of the Daily Mail.
7th. They have been burning the proud flesh off my wound the last few mornings with nitric acid & by heavens it stings I am now having hot fomentations on again, its wonderful how the thing hangs out but I suppose it will heal shortly
Very misty & raining lightly today but it will do the world of good the country can do with a little moisture
Took the bus & went into town this morning to get some more of my films, I am getting a good collection now.
Have been busy all the afternoon sorting my prints films negatives & etc I am sending a batch off home tomorrow I think
Went into town again this afternoon for it turned out a
glorious evening the clouds rolled away & the sun came out nice & bright making the whole land look just like one huge flower & vegetable garden & the trees looked as green as could be for all their leaves were washed clean of the dust, & everything smelt so lovely.
I dropped into the Daimler tea rooms & here I met Doherty & McGuire so we then had a run round town I was on the look out for films but never a one could I get they are as precious as gold & just as scarce.
8th. Into the city again this morning searching for films but not a one could I get for love nor money & they reckon they wont have any in till Wednesday.
In the afternoon I met the girl again at Hill St station & we went out per bus to Sutton Park about 12 miles out of the city, its rather a nice place & right away from the crowds, we took some fruit & etc & had a good time on the hills which overlook the country for a long way round, came back in time to have our tea in the city & then both of us departed for home I arrived at the Hall just as a concert was starting so I ducked out of it quick & lively & had a cigar in the garden with the flowers & my thoughts for company far better than listening to squalling tenorís & sopranoís
9th. Sunday & rather chilly a cold breeze is blowing & it looks like rain again hope it
holds fine for this coming week for its the last week that Miss Allen & I will have together for she, her sister & mother are going to Blackpool for a month or so.
9th. It has been raining lightly all the morning but not heavy enough to stop us from going to Church which is only a stones throw from the Hospital.
After dinner I went into town & had a look at the performance in the Theatre Royal, it was given to the Soldiers, sailors, nurses & etc by the Birmingham Professions & Trades Fund, it was not bad I liked the music best for the orchestra was very large & good they gave a descriptive piece, "A hunting scene" & you could follow it with the music easily.
After this was over I went down to the "Bull ring" to listen to a few of the stump orators who hold forth there every Sunday & they are dead funny, its surprising the crowd they collect, but I expect the majority of them were there like myself out of mere curiosity
I am at my window again scribbling this & the country is looking lovely for the rain has ceased & the sun is struggling to show himself through the fleecy clouds that are drifting lazily across the blue sky, all the foliage & trees are looking bright & clean & you can almost see the crops springing to it while the perfume is glorious that is floating about, the atmosphere is very clear & I can see quite distinctly the beautiful Lickky Hills many
miles away, & everything seems so peaceful & quiet.
I received a letter yesterday that I wrote to Bill Barwick a few days after I was hit, it was marked present address unknown, so I guess Bill has been cracked again I thought something must have happened for I have been expecting to hear from him all the while.
This evening as I was taking my usual stroll round the gardens enjoying a good cigar & the flowers, one of the sisters came after me she wants me to make one of a party of a dozen to go to the Commandant daughterís wedding which is being held tomorrow afternoon, she said she had selected me, what for I donít know for I donít mix with scarce any one here I much prefer to go about alone, I think a lot of them have an
idea that I am proud & a bit stand-offish, perhaps I am for I am getting very independent this last year or two however I accepted her invitation, more on account of my never having seen a wedding than anything else, we are to be a "Guard of honor" or something of that style I believe.
10th. Very misty looking this morning but shows signs of clearing up.
There is a great argument going on in the next room between an Aussie & some Tommies over the Irish question that everlasting topic that never seems to get any nearer being settled downstairs someone is playing My home in Tennesee", & among all this you can hear the smack of the billiard balls, such is the average morning in our little quarter of the Hall.
Had a row with the Commandant this morning it happened this way, one of the nurses came up to my ward & said Sgt. The Commandant wants to see you in her office, I wondered what could be the matter, so down I went & knocked at her door, there was a surly "come in" & in I hopped & walks up to her prepared for anything, she starts off "Sgt I want you to take charge of the route marching party from now on & see that they do their work properly especially the men for exercise you will have to put them through physical training & see that they do it, this had the effect of course of making me obstinate for I am not going to be ordered about by a woman
least of all by her at any rate, so I said, do you know Commandant that every morning between 9 and 10 I have my side dressed, "oh indeed, she says, then you will have to have it done either before or after the march, this got my back up so I said show me the list, she handed it over & I ran my eye down the columns & found there were 2 corporals on it, so I said look there are 2 corporals on the list why not let one of them take the party out, & when my wound is dressed I will catch them up & take charge, but she wouldnít hear of this, & after a few more sharp passages she said "looke here Sgt I am not in the habit of being dictated to & when I want
to make my arrangements I wonít come to you, & Commandant I said, I also am not in the habit of being ordered & dictated to least of all by a woman, & if I take charge of this party once they are out of the Hall they are in my charge & nothing to do with you, & as for giving them physical training, well I have no intention of doing any such thing, unless it is done under my own arrangements, things began to get warm now, for she had never been spoken to like this before for a while Iíll guarantee for the majority of the chaps used to bow & scrape to her, she sat back in her chair & tried to freeze me with her stare but my eyes were as good as hers & she got nothing out of this sort of thing, so she
fell back on that old clap trap, authority, if you are not careful Sgt Iíll have you put under arrest my answer to her was a regular staggerer I could see by her looks for I said you can do what you jolly well like my troubles, for if you do I will give you a fight for it & I donít think you will come out of it very creditably, at this she backed down considerably for she could see she was not dealing with a Tommy, for they will take almost any thing lying down, that has been my experience even here of it, at last after a lot of talking & arguing we came to an agreement & this was it I am to take the whole party for a march each morning for Ĺ an hour instead
of the hour then bring them back & fall out the men for exercise, detail a corporal to take charge & give the physical training, the remainder including myself finish then I donít know what they must think of us "Aussies" they certainly can lead us, but drive them, never.
This afternoon I went to the wedding much against my will after my row with the Commandant, I only went because I had promised the Sister & sheís a good sort, & also because we got out an hour earlier than we would otherwise have done, we arrived in Church just in time to see the bride brought in, this was the first wedding I had ever seen so it was interesting to me, after all was over the little group of soldiers went outside & when they came out
we formed an archway with our sticks & crutches, for them to walk under when the happy pair had driven away the Commandant asked all to go to her house & she would give them something to eat, they all went bar me & a Londoner I would see her somewhere myself before I would go to her house & be treated like a servant with a few pieces of cake & a lot of gracious condesencion, not for mine, instead I caught a tram & went out to Blackheath to see Miss Allen & I stopped there for tea.
11th. I got one home on the Commandant this morning for you know I was supposed to take the party out route marching, I was in the Hall alright with the party but someone had apparently forgot to give me the list though I knew where it was if I only liked to go & get it, but she laid
such stress upon me being handed the list when I had the row with her that I was determined to wait until someone did bring it along, so we waited & waited till 10 oclock came round & that was the end of things for we all went out on leave & the party did not go out at all, after dinner as I was playing billiards she bustled up to me & said Sgt did you take the party out this morning, "No I did not I said, what do you mean by it she said, simply this I said, I was, & for that matter still am awaiting instructions as regards the men, for I have not received the list you promised me, so therefore how could I take the men out, then she suddenly remembered about it for she said something under her breath & beat it, I winked to my mate & said, what a down sheíll
have on me now, she went away in a fury but I got the better of her the nurses all know of my row with her the matron must have told them for a couple of them made some laughing remarks about it to me this morning, they donít like her for they said so, & they are pleased that some one spoke up to her at last for she has had them all bluffed sheís a sour looking old cat, & the other day she got the Order of the British Empire
This afternoon I run in to the town & done some skating but I did not enjoy myself in the slightest for I had a rotten pair of skates, seemed like pushing a wheelbarrow round & tonight I am as tired in the legs as I can possibly be.
Have got some more films for my camera at last so I feel much
more satisfied now.
There is a concert raging here again tonight, some of the items would give you the creeps even where I am far away up in the 3rd storey I can still hear some of their shrill piercing voices during the evening an Aussie was asked to give an item & one of our lads stepped out & hanged if he did not bring the house down he had a lovely voice bit of a shock to the performers of the concert party, it has taken the wind out of their sails properly & good enough for them, sometimes we get a good performance but more often they are pretty rotten & though I love music I generally get well out of the way, for its perfectly killing to sit & listen to crook singing, & the best of it all is that they choose high class songs which really take
some singing & are entirely unfitted for the average audience of soldiers I I like high class music & songs myself but only when they are well played and sung
12th. This morning the old Commandant brought the list up to my room, so I took the men out for Ĺ an hour & then brought them in, how savage she looked but what do I care about her we are enemies thats all I know.
Done a bit of manoeuvring & got out an hour early this afternoon without my pass then walked along to the Selly Oak tram terminus where I met Miss Allen & we caught a bus running to Rednal, on the way out we passed "Bournville" Cadburys cocoa works & further on the "Austin" works this is where they make the Austin motor car but now the immense factories are
employed in making munitions & etc. as can be easily seen by the great stacks of shells which are piled up all over the place, these works occupy both sides of the road for a considerable distance & employ thousands of people the Coy. house their employees in big hostels or groups of dwellings it would not suit me for too many live in the same house, & there can be very little privacy on our arrival at Rednal we got out & walked down the pretty roadway lined with trees till we came to some tea rooms then we went in & had a little to eat & a cup of tea without sugar for they are not allowed to sell sugar you know, I find drinking tea without being sweetened very hard, but 2 ladies saved my life for one of them came over & gave us about 6 lumps of loaf sugar an untold fortune over here, its the custom
now among people in England now that when they go anywhere they take their own sugar, it seems so funny to see well dressed people pull out their little bag & produce their sugar when dining out but its the only way if you like you tea sweetened, Miss Allen generally brings some with her but she forgot this time.
from the tea rooms we climbed up on the Hills from where one can get a magnificent view of the surrounding country you can see for miles & miles in every direction, its real country out here, all ferns shrubs & trees, I quite enjoyed the afternoon, towards evening we went down to a friend of Miss Allenís for tea, & then after this we caught the bus & then home, I got in an hour & a half late, but no one caught me, I am bringing things a fine art, the matron was on the war path last night but I
dodged her, as I came through the Hall gates I saw her but I slipped round behind some bushes too quick for her & so I got away, I think she caught one or two of the more unfortunate ones
13th. Have had a fairly quiet day nothing doing except a couple of runs into town to take a few snaps of the streets for it has been a very nice bright afternoon & suitable for photography, its a wonder I have not been grabbed for I have taken my snaps right under the policemans very nose & I know I am not supposed to have a camera in this district without a permit for it is a big munition area but nothing venture nothing have is a true old saying, & so far I have come off alright.
As I was hurrying down New Street yesterday afternoon who should I spot but Kelleway, but I never had a chance to speak to him, Jack Hayes told me he was over here sick but I never thought I should meet him in Birmingham
For tea last night in addition to the bowl of soup each man had a plate of strawberries sugar & cream they were the gift of some people & very nice eating they were.
14th. Very overcast & cloudy with just a fine mist falling, its very aggravating for me on account of the bicycle tour Miss Allen & I had planned for today & now it looks very doubtful of it ever coming off I have been looking forward to this little excursion & that makes
it worse, you never know when you have got this climate over here for last night was a glorious one & gave promise of a fine day.
I went out to Miss Allens place this afternoon & had tea with them I suppose itís the last time I shall see them for tomorrow they are all going to Blackpool for 2 months holiday, I shall miss this girl very much for she has been my constant companion for the last 3 weeks & I grew to like her very much, for she is a very nice girl, quite different to the usual type, I left their place at 6.45. & got in to the Hall an hour later, I had no pass again, they tell me the Commandant had a piquet on last night trying to
see who they could catch, a nice sort of thing to have round hospitals & wounded men, I noticed a Tommy Sgt as I came through the gate, if he reports me as the majority of them would there will be some pretty plain speaking.
15th. It is a glorious morning after the heavy rain which fell last night every thing is so clear & bright & clean looking after the bath, & the garden is lovely & the flowers beautiful the sun is shining brightly & there are a few big fleecy clouds drifting slowly across the sky.
Run into town this morning to see about my films, they have turned out very well & I am getting them all printed by Monday.
This afternoon I went out to "Ward End Park" its about 2 Ĺ miles out of
the city & about as big as a pocket hankerchief, there is a nice little pool for boating but this is about the only thing out then of any attraction, wasnít out there long, caught a car & run back in to the city where I bumped Cossey a chap out of our Battn. who is leave up here, had a bit of a yarn & then I went & had my tea & home in the bus. actually getting in to time almost the first time since I have been here.
After tea a concert party turned up this was the signal for me to do a get quick & lively so I lit my cigar, reached for my hat & walking stick & strolled down to the garden here I fell in with 14 girls all working in the vegetable part of the garden, I stopped with them for the remainder of the evening, it appears they are members of a sporting club & they have volunteered to spend their
Saturday afternoons doing this kind of work instead of playing, rather a good idea, its surprising the amount of work they got through by knock off time, they have a special costume for this work & they look very smart & businesslike too, after I had been there a while a few Aussies sick of the howling screeching sopranos began to trickle down & by 8.30 there was a decent crowd I wonder what the Commandant would have said if she could have only seen her patients, down in this forbidden ground for the vegetable garden is "out of bounds"
I have to record a painful loss, nothing less than my beautiful fountain pen that I had carried so far & through all the batles in France for the last 2 years, & I thought the world of that pen for she was such a beauty, it was an Ideal Watermans & I gave £1-1 for it when I first went to England in 1916. some dirty stinking low
bred mongrel, pinched it in my absence there is quite a lot of this sort of thing goes on in this hospital & itís a damn disgrace.
16th. Another coldest cloudy & unsettled morning, have just come back from Church & am now patiently waiting for the dinner bell to ring
This afternoon I went into town & put the time in at the Royal Theatre they have some very fine music there & its quite a treat to listen to it, especially after the stuff we generally are treated to from here I went down to the "Bull Ring" to listen to some of the stump orators & believe me they are very funny
17th. Was marked out as cured this morning they are sending me to Dartford I believe, its better going on leave from there for its closer to London.
Very misty today no sun at all
Some more "Aussies" got into trouble last night over stopping out late & etc they are packing them off to the 1st Southern General for trial, its a wonder how I have missed for I have broken as many rules as any of them, but I have been more lucky I suppose & not been caught.
Saw a bit of fun in the street yesterday afternoon, a Tommy on leave from Mesoptamia passed a Tommy Cpt without saluting, the Capt walks up to the soldier & says, "dont you know an officer when you see one" the Tommy looked at him cooly & said "no, are you one" & at the same time hit him fair in the eye with his fist & knocked him sprawling in the gutter much to the amusement of all witnesses, he knocked him out properly, just then a bunch of redcaps appeared on the
scene & grabbed the Tommy after a great struggle when the officer came round he said to an Aussie standing there, you saw him hit me didnít you, I saw nothing was the answer & the Aussie was within 3 ft when it happened but there was little chance of him taking an officers part I daresay he would have liked to kick him, I know thats how I felt the skunk was an RAMC Captain & never had even a chevron up I suppose he is one the stay at home heroes they are always the worst Iíll bet heíll never repeat such a performance again, he looked as silly as a rabbit walking away accompanied by the jeers of the crowd.
18th. We had a visit from an old Colonel this morning, not a bad old sort of the usual harmless type.
He asked me where I got my ribbon & said he thought I was rather lucky to get that decoration.
The Commandant is as sweet as sugar with me now, you would scarce belive what a difference it has been since we had our little row, wherever she seeís me she will pull up & have a yarn & she has asked me inside her office on several occassions a signal honor, I suppose its because I spoke up to her not like the majority almost tremble when she says anything to them
I got my prints yesterday afternoon. Mr Baynton asked me if he could have the loan of one of them, be reckonís it splendid & is going to get it enlarged & sent to his son who is a prisoner in Germany, the one in particular is a street scene in Birmngham & it shows an officer
in the Royal Air Force with the new uniform very distinctly, his son was an airman & as he has never seen the new uniform he thinks it will interest him greatly I also got a lot of prints of Harborne Hall, the boys ordered them from my negative, it is a jolly good one
Weather is still very unsettled & showery, I wish it would clear up Yesterday afternoon having nothing much to do I went & had a look at Museum & Art Gallery, the former is very good especially as regards birds, but the Art Gallery is nothing out of the ordinary though I fancy most of the good pictures have been removed to places of safety for fear of air raids & etc
Received a packet of mail from home at last this morning, the
first I have had for ages
Done a bit of shopping in town this afternoon bought an inkwell for travelling, ink, cigars, & a diary, now I will have to buy another fountain pen when I go on leave to replace the one I had stolen.
The more I see of the average Tommy the more I am beginning to hate & despise them, it makes me mad to see them calmly sitting down in the bus & women standing all round them, do you know I have scarce seen a single one of them yet, rise & offer his seat to a lady young or old, & these are the people who dare to run down & criticise others, theres no doubt we Colonials have our faults but thank heaven they donít lean that way, & when it comes to little acts of courtesy our lads know how to behave themselves.
girls over here are not thought the same of as they are in Australia as a stroll down any of the streets or a ride in the bus or tram will show, I suppose it is on account of them being so numerous, in one way I will be glad to get on leave & get away from the Tommies I never saw such gluttons & muldoonís in my life if they think there is any chance of getting in for a second helping they will stuff & gorge themselves like pigs racing one against the other to finish their first plateful, makes me feel as if I could knock their heads off, I wouldnít live among these people one day longer than I could possible help, if they are spoken to they wonít say a word in self defence but take it all lying down, this is how for one reason the Colonials
are always in hot water, for when we come up against any of these little pin pricks, they always buck up & then there is a row of course
19th. Took my route march crowd as usual down to the little coffee shop in Harborne, we put most of the hour in there you know & then march home the Commandant thinks I have them going all the time, yes I am the right sort for that sort of thing.
A big mob went away from here this morning to the various Camps I was expecting to go myself but I suppose it will be tomorrow now instead
Have been letter writing all the morning I must keep going while I have the fit on me I got quite a decent lot off too & a lot of it had been lying about waiting to be answered for some time
This afternoon a party numbering 6 3 Canadians & 3 "Aussies" went for a trip over the Bournville Cocoa Works the factory lies on the outskirts of Birmingham & is situated in a very nice place, surrounded by parks gardens & etc. & in fact it is all that is claimed for it a garden village they look after their employees well provide swimming baths, where all girls are taught to swim, schools for education, trades are taught all of this being in the work hours & a hundred & one other privelege they have lovely grounds, recreations grounds gardens buffets, & etc for the people, they employ about 2000 girls & a walk through their factory is an eye opener, all the girls dress in white & we were shown the many different processes
chocolate goes through before it comes in to our hands, we sampled all the different sorts on our way through also the biscuits, & very nice they were, after we had gone through most of the factory our guide took us in to the visitors room where cakes bread & butter & cocoa were provided free & real good this was. from here we completed the tour of the factory & then went into the gardens & etc. I took a snap in here but I donít think it will be much good for the day was very dull when we had finished we were all given a souvenir box with little illustrated booklets & chocolates & so ended a most enjoyable little visit to one of the largest chocolate & cocoa makers in England & also one of the best & generous employers.
[Transcribed by Rosemary Cox and Barbara Manchester for the State Library of New South Wales]